DeSantis picks an immigration fight with Newsom because he’s scared to attack Trump

CAPE COD - Authorities say migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard on the orders of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will be moved to housing on a military base elsewhere in Massachusetts. (Rodrique Ngowi/AP)

(Rodrique Ngowi/AP)

DeSantis picks an immigration fight with Newsom because he's scared to attack Trump

Op-Ed,Immigration and the Border

Robin Abcarian

June 7, 2023

He hasnt admitted it yet, but lets say for the sake of argument that Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is behind the recent ferrying of South American migrants from Texas to the steps of a Catholic church in Sacramento. What, exactly, would he be trying to accomplish?

Last year, there was some strained logic, I suppose, in a similar stunt, where DeSantis organized flights of migrants


rom the southern border to Marthas Vineyard.

You remember that, of course: DeSantis

minions rounded up several dozen Venezuelan asylum seekers, ranging in age from 2 to 68, in San Antonio in September


promised them jobs and financial assistance, then flew them in chartered planes at taxpayer expense to Massachusetts. The migrants said they were told they were heading to New York or Boston.

In the Republican political imagination, Marthas Vineyard is an elite liberal bastion whose residents have no real grasp of the border crisis.

No one really cared about this in the national media perspective until 50 show up in Marthas Vineyard, DeSantis said at the time. (Translation:

Nobody was paying attention to me


But in California, home to the busiest border crossing in the world, where the agricultural and service economies would collapse without the labor of immigrant workers here illegally or not what on Earth might someone like Cruella DeSantis be trying to prove?

After all, hes not running against Californias well-liked Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Hes running against former President Trump, and a host of other Republican hopefuls, all of whom are trailing Trump badly in the polls. But the stranglehold that Trump has on the GOP means that DeSantis cant pick a fight with

the former guy for fear of alienating the Republican base, not to mention fear of unleashing Trumps toxic brand of rhetorical annihilation.

DeSantis is probably hoping that Chris Christie will be Trump’s pain sponge, now that the combative former New Jersey governor has entered the race.

(Trumps preferred insult for the Florida governor, Ron DeSanctimonious is ungainly, but apt.)

Anyway, DeSantis is probably hoping that Chris Christie will be Trump’s pain sponge, now that the combative former New Jersey governor has entered the race.

With the Republican presidential contest in full swing, DeSantis’

targeting of Newsom with what is fast becoming a tired gambit counts as simple misplaced aggression. Hes posturing for conservative and independent voters in a way that wont provoke Trump. In fact, using migrants as pawns is right up Trumps alley: cowardly, calculated and cruel.

And potentially illegal.

Ron DeSantis, you small, pathetic man, Newsom tweeted Monday. This isnt Marthas Vineyard. Kidnapping charges?

To be fair, Newsom has been angling for his

own share of national attention by picking on DeSantis. In the past year, Newsom has flown to Florida to criticize its governor for imposing his anti-LGBTQ+ values on Florida schools, challenged DeSantis to a debate, and run a TV ad inviting Floridians to join us in California.

In DeSantis apparent latest bid for the national spotlight, on Friday, 16 migrants from Colombia and Venezuela were flown to Sacramento from Texas via New Mexico. Twenty more arrived Monday. No arrangements had been made for their care; they were dropped off on the doorstep of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento with documents that appeared to be from the Florida state government, according to California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta.

DeSantis is not the only red state governor using human beings to tweak Democrats. The day after the migrants landed on Marthas Vineyard last summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent two busloads of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris Washington doorstep.

Fortunately, pushback to this transparent political ploy is gaining steam.

A federal class action lawsuit was filed against DeSantis and other Florida officials in September by a civil rights law firm on behalf of the migrants who were flown to Marthas Vineyard. It alleges that the migrants’ constitutional rights were violated when they were tricked into boarding planes and abandoned once they landed.

On Monday, the Texas Tribune

reported, the Bexar County Sheriffs Office in Texas announced it had filed criminal charges against unnamed suspects in connection with the Marthas Vineyard



The charges include several counts of unlawful restraint, both misdemeanors and felonies, said the Tribune. It remains to be seen whether the local district attorney will prosecute.

And Bonta has launched an investigation into the circumstances under which the most recent group of transported asylum seekers landed in


We are also evaluating potential criminal or civil action against those who transported or arranged for the transport of these vulnerable immigrants, Bonta said in a statement. State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting.

Whats especially pathetic about red state leaders trying to garner headlines by sending migrants to blue states and cities is that local and state officials have no control over border policy.

That responsibility lies squarely with Congress, which has dithered for decades. Last month, the House passed an immigration bill that critics say would end asylum

in the U.S.


and restart construction on Trump’s failed border wall. President Biden has said he would veto the bill, which is very unlikely to pass in the Senate.

In any case, both parties have expressed the hope that the legislation, contentious as it is, could signal the start of serious bipartisan cooperation on the issue. Im looking for any port in a storm, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters last month.

So are the hundreds of thousands of poor, tired and huddled masses who come to these shores yearning to breathe free. Allowing cynics like DeSantis to exploit migrants to make political points tarnishes what we’ve always believed is best about us.